On a day Punjab reported its highest single-day spike of 1,492 Covid-19 cases and a record 51 deaths due to the disease, Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh said he was not averse to taking harsher measures to check further spread of the virus.
“Though he did not rule out lockdown, especially in areas with high spike in cases, the CM made it clear that economic activity will not be allowed to suffer,” a government statement said.
Montek Singh Ahluwalia, who is heading the expert group for revival of the state’s economy, also said any measures to check Covid-19 spread should not impact economic activities, it added
Warning that the state must also be ready for a second spike in Covid-19 infections, the noted economist said if lockdown had to be introduced in certain areas then strict protocols should be put in place to ensure that there is no impact on industrial and income generating avenues.
The Punjab cabinet, in a virtual meeting chaired by the CM, reviewed the pandemic situation in the state. The CM, in response to a suggestion from Expert Health Advisory Committee chairman K K Talwar, said, if needed, the state government would consider going in for strong measures to combat the novel coronavirus.
Talwar said the four districts — Ludhiana, Mohali, Jalandhar and Patiala — were witnessing the maximum surge in infections and deaths and needed stricter preventive measures to control the situation. The situation in the state, he said, was grim with over 31,000 cases and more than 800 fatalities. Deaths per million had also gone up to 27.2, and as many as 265 patients were on oxygen and 20 on ventilator support at present, he said, underlining the need for early testing and treatment for saving lives.
The state had reached 20,000 tests per day, including rapid antigen testing, he said.
Talwar cited various researches to point out that strict adherence to wearing masks for the next four weeks could help control the pandemic.
Meanwhile, the government modified its earlier orders and extended the night curfew within the municipal limits of all cities. Earlier, the night curfew was imposed in Ludhiana, Jalandhar and Patiala cities only.
The guidelines, issued on Monday, said that as part of the night curfew movement of individuals for all the non-essential activities shall remain prohibited between 9 pm to 5 am. Restrictions have been imposed on restaurants, hotels and other hospitality units and liquor vends that would be allowed to open only till 8:30 pm. Shops and shopping malls would be allowed to open only till 8 pm and restaurants and hotels within shoppings malls will be allowed to open till 8:30 pm.
The guidelines have advised the people to avoid unnecessary travel on Saturdays and Sundays in the towns of Ludhiana, Patiala and Jalandhar. Shops (other than those dealing in essential commodities) and malls will remain closed on Sundays.
In addition, shops and malls in three Ludhiana, Patiala and Jalandhar shall also remain closed on Saturdays till further orders.
‘No proposal to withdraw free farm power’
Montek Singh Ahluwalia, who is heading the expert group for revival of the state’s economy, Monday said there had been no suggestion by his panel for withdrawal of free power to farmers, as was being projected by a section of the media.
He clarified this after CM said that a lot of misinformation was being spread on this count.
Ahluwalia said the group was in favour of diversification to reduce dependence on paddy, and wanted Punjab to spend 20 per cent more annually, for the next five years, on public health infrastructure.
The Chief Minister said the Montek group’s recommendations would be circulated to all ministers and a detailed discussion will be held thereafter on the issue.
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